It’s true that looks aren’t everything, but they sure are important if you’re a design boutique situated in the bustling heart of Seattle. Recently we visited John and Frances Smersh, owners of Click! Design That Fits, to chat about one of their favorite topics: visual merchandising.
John and Frances began Click! as a small brick-and-mortar storefront in a sleepy part of their West Seattle neighborhood in 2004. Back then they mostly relied on word of mouth and a bit of advertising for people to find them. But a few years ago, they relocated to a more central location and started getting a lot more foot traffic—and a lot more attention.
With so many eyes on their window displays, visual merchandising is integral to John and Frances’s business. “It’s crucial, because it creates the environment and therefore the experience that customers have here,” says John. “We have a nice, big front window that we merchandise with seasonally appropriate products designed to catch people’s eyes and draw them into the store.”
Having an array of beautifully designed merchandise—which includes everything from lighting and furniture to handbags and home décor—certainly helps Click! keep their aesthetic on point, but it can also pose some difficulties. According to the husband-and-wife team, “keeping things fresh with a consistent look and feel across all aspects of the business” is their biggest challenge. “We have to make sure our product lines are constantly evolving, so that people don’t see the same old things every time they come in.”
A key part of Click!’s merchandising strategy is making sure that all of the products in the store belong together. In fact, that’s how John and Frances came up with their store name. “‘Click!’ is the sound of objects fitting together,” explains John.
While John and Frances dress their store to look beautiful, they’re careful not to make it look too beautiful. They don’t want it to be museum-like to the point where customers are afraid to touch anything. Notably, this is one of their biggest takeaways from years of experience.
“When we first opened, our customers were afraid to touch our displays because they didn’t want to mess them up. Now we’ve learned how to balance what we call ‘museum display’ versus ‘grocery store merchandising.’ An effective display should demonstrate to the customer how great a product is and also make them feel comfortable picking the product up and taking it to the cash register,” John advises.
Click! does most of their business in-store, but John and Frances recognize the importance of delivering a consistent brand experience both in-store and online. In order to do so, they keep an ongoing marketing calendar to coordinate in-store events and product displays with emails, social media posts, homepage imagery, and digital advertising.
That way, customers shopping online are looking at the very same featured product that is highlighted in the store displays. Integrating their marketing message across various platforms not only helps keep the Click! team organized, but also helps avoid confusion among customers.
John and Frances also leverage their digital marketing channels to drive traffic to their store. For example: “If we’re having a jewelry show in-store, the event will be reflected on all of those digital channels because we mapped it out several weeks or months previously,” John tells me.
They don’t do a ton of paid advertising, but their most effective advertisements are with their local neighborhood news site, westseattleblog.com, where they regularly showcase their current featured products.
As for their greatest success since launching Click! Design That Fits, John and Frances tell me that they had to trust their guts and hope that people liked the same designs they did. “Trusting that other people would appreciate our design taste was a pretty big leap of faith in retrospect. We figured that other people might like some of the things that we loved as much as we did…and we were right. That,” says John, “is an amazing feeling.”